WWC 1 – Adam Cianciara


Our wine writing competition (WWC) closed yesterday and we have been overwhelmed by and are very grateful for both the quantity and quality of entries. As many as 180 would-be wine writers, many of them not native English speakers, have been keen enough to send us a couple of articles about very varied aspects of wine.  A final 26 entries were submitted last night! Thank you all.

We have been hugely impressed by the geographical spread and calibre of the competitors whose entries we have read so far. We will be working our way through all the contributions and, obviously, are a long way from making any decisions about the winner. We will try, but cannot guarantee, to announce the results of the competition by the end of the year. Today we start to publish some of the contributions we have particularly enjoyed. Today's article is one of those sent by Adam Cianciara, who describes himself thus:

I’m 31 and I come from Poland. However, for last two years I have lived in Zurich, Switzerland. In Poland I used to work at the University of Wroclaw, where I was studying guerrilla warfare and teaching theory of international relations. But two years ago my wife (she’s a lawyer) got a job offer she couldn’t refuse. So we moved to Switzerland. The only problem was that I didn’t know a word of German except for Spätlese. I had no choice but to start from scratch. I learnt German (ok, more or less – it’s a never-ending process, right?), discovered Swiss wines and for some months I have worked part-time at the Swiss Red Cross.

I am not a wine professional, I’ve never published any wine-related article and of course I’m not an MW (I’m a PhD though, if that counts). I love Tom Waits’ music, good coffee (or should I say: craft coffee?) and, last but definitely not least, wine.

In this picture taken by my wife I’m grinning like a child while preparing to take a big gulp. It was different evening than the one I described in the article and a different wine. But the place was the same: ultra-traditional Giacomo Anselma’s restaurant. Look at this rustic interior, as if time has stopped there! (No wonder they don’t have proper wine coolers.)

See also yesterday's article Outstanding 2016 Langhe grapes to be thrown away with worrying news from Piemonte.

A big gulp

Life of a wine geek ain’t easy. And put aside that you still haven’t figured out how to get a sip of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (don’t worry, neither have I). I’m talking about more worldly matters. Like for instance: what food to pair with Tokaji Szamorodni Száraz (Száraz means dry, right? Or was it Edés?), in which varietal specific stemware should you drink Châteauneuf-du-Pape (aren’t they permitted to use 13 different grape varieties!?), and – the question of all questions – should you decant?

But that’s not all. In a restaurant instead of enjoying your meal you stare intently at other tables, trying to decipher what kind of wine people ordered. At your friends’ place while being poured some supermarket Rioja you can’t help thinking: Rioja, of course, and what did you expect!? But while having the same friends over for dinner at your place instead of pouring a wine you hold a bottle in your hand and explain at length (that is, bore your friends to death) nuances of orange wines production. In the meantime the wine warms up (of course it does! You’ve held the bottle in your warm hand, stupid!), so it loses its ideal serving temperature. You have no choice: you start apologising to your friends for serving a slightly too warm wine and you assure them that the wine would be much better if only it was two degrees cooler. You don’t notice however that all of your friends lost any interest in your wine monologue long before. To be exact, they lost interest the second you opened your mouth and said: this is a very special wine.

But summer holidays are the worst! Firstly you have to convince your family that what they really want is to spend their deservedly earned holidays in a wine region (for them, a rural backwater far away from the sea), where the only interesting thing is, well, wine (the alcoholic beverage on which you spend too much money). And then, when you succeed and eventually end up at a dream wine trip, to your horror, you discover that wine folk there may have a slightly different approach to wine than you, there is no varietal specific stemware and the wine is served at least two degrees too warm! What can you do? My advice: take a big gulp and enjoy the moment. That’s what happened to me.

We were sitting in a family-run, very traditional restaurant in Serralunga d’Alba, Piemonte. Four of us. One wine geek (that’s me), one collateral wine geek (that’s my wife, not a wine geek by choice, rather by association – she’s been standing my wine passion for so long, that she eventually became a wine geek) and two real wine drinkers (they don’t complain as long as their glasses are full. Full of anything, to be frank). We placed our orders and I picked the wine. I wouldn’t be myself, if didn’t tell you: Anselma Giacomo Langhe Nebbiolo 2013. A small, traditional and organic producer from Serralunga – the real wines for geeks! The starters arrived as well as the wine. I took the first sip. Slurped. Then slurped again. Oh, it was… It was just a bit too warm. Just one degree less and it would be gorgeous! But because I don’t speak Italian and the waitress hardly spoke any English, I knew that asking for an ice bucket would be an uphill battle. I looked at my companions for help. They were involved in some apparently amusing chat, which I hadn’t noticed because I’d been slurping. My wife’s eyes shone every time she tried the wine (sign that she liked it), and the glasses of our friends were already half empty (sign that I would have to order a new bottle quite soon). I gave up. I took a big gulp and forgot about fancy stemware, tasting notes and ideal temperature. And how was it? It was a fantastic evening! And the wine? Ah, yes, the wine. The wine was great (though a bit too warm).